By Donald Judd and Ryan Nobles, CNN
Updated: Sat, 17 Oct 2020 17:20:18 GMT
Sen. David Perdue, a Georgia Republican who's locked in a tight reelection battle against Democrat Jon Ossoff, willfully mispronounced his Senate colleague Kamala Harris' name on Friday during remarks ahead of President Donald Trump's rally in the Peach State.
Perdue, who serves on the Senate Budget Committee with Harris, was speaking ahead of the President's arrival in Macon when derisively referred to the vice presidential candidate as "Ka-MAL-a (sic), Ka-MAL-a or Kamala, Kamala, Ka-mala, -mala, -mala, I don't know, whatever," to laughter from the crowd.
Ossoff quickly criticized Perdue for the remark, writing in a series of tweets, "My opponent, GOP Sen. David Perdue of anti-Semitic attack ad infamy, just mocked Sen. Harris' name as 'Kamala-mala-mala-whatever' at a Trump rally. We are so much better than this."
Sabrina Singh, Harris' press secretary, condemned Perdue's statement.
"Well that is incredibly racist," she said on Twitter. "Vote him out and vote for @ossoff."
"Senator Perdue's intentionally disrespectful mispronunciation of Senator Harris's name is a bigoted and racist tactic straight from President Trump's handbook. He owes Georgians an apology for his offensive display," said Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams.
A spokeswoman for Perdue's campaign defended his remarks in a statement to CNN.
"Senator Perdue simply mispronounced Senator Harris' name, and he didn't mean anything by it," said Casey Black. "He was making an argument against the radical socialist agenda that she and her endorsed candidate Jon Ossoff are pushing."
It's not the first time during this campaign that Perdue has been accused of discrimination against a Democrat. Perdue was criticized in June when his campaign was forced to pull a digital ad attacking Ossoff, which showed the Democrat's nose enlarged, a hallmark of an anti-Semitic trope. A campaign spokeswoman called the distorted image "accidental... but to ensure there is absolutely no confusion, we have immediately removed the image from Facebook." After that incident, a campaign spokeswoman said Perdue has a "strong and consistent record of standing firmly against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate" and co-sponsored a resolution in 2019 condemning anti-Semitism.
Republicans have frequently mispronounced the California senator's name, including President Donald Trump, who did so twice during a news conference on the day she was announced as Biden's running mate.
Fox News' Tucker Carlson lashed out at a guest in August after being corrected over the pronunciation of Harris' name.
"So I'm disrespecting her by mispronouncing her name unintentionally?" Carlson asked. "So it begins, you're not allowed to criticize Kuh-MAH-la Harris, or CA-muh-la, or whatever."
Kamala is pronounced "'comma-la,' like the punctuation mark," according to the California senator. Harris wrote in the preface of her 2019 memoir, "The Truths We Hold," "First, my name is pronounced 'comma-la,' like the punctuation mark. It means 'lotus flower,' which is a symbol of significance in Indian culture. A lotus grows underwater, its flower rising above the surface while its roots are planted firmly in the river bottom."
If elected in November, Harris will become the nation's first Indian-American vice president, the first Black vice president, the first female vice president and the first Jamaican-American vice president. Harris' father was born in Jamaica and her late mother was born in India.